The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic has already agreed personal terms with Premier League side Liverpool and now it is up to the Anfield club to agree a fee with Inter before they can complete the deal. But who is this 21 year-old kid and is he any good?
Despite playing his international football for Croatia, Mateo Kovacic was actually born in Linz, Austria on the 6th of May 1994 (belated, happy birthday, Mateo). As a youngster he played academy football for Austrian side LASK Linz before being scouted at the age of 13 by several top European clubs such as Ajax, Inter Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Although, he didn’t opt to sign for any of these sides and instead moved to Croatia to play for Dinamo Zagreb.
Kovacic became the youngest ever scorer in the Croatian league at the age of 16 years and 198 days on his debut in November 2010. It was a great year all-round as Zagreb won the 10/11 league title with Kovacic featuring throughout.
The midfielder continued to progress in the 11/12 season as he became a first team regular for Dinamo Zagreb and even managed to feature for them in the Champions League group stages where he scored against Lyon making him the second youngest scorer in the Champions League at the time. The youngster finished the season with 5 league goals, a goal in the Croatian Cup final and was named Croatian Football Hope of the Year.
Kovacic was seen as the main man at Dinamo Zagreb but in January 2013 the allure of a bigger club proved too strong and Mateo moed to Inter for €15 million . Kovacic made his Inter debut three days later as a half-time substitute and went on to become a regular starter for the Italian giants as the season progressed. Inter Milan finished a disappointing 9th in the Serie A but Kovacic was named “Gentleman Revelation of the Year” by the Inter fans.
In the 13/14 season, new Inter coach Walter Mazzarri changed Kovacic’s role in the Inter midfield but the Croatian struggled to adapt to this change and he only made 14 starts for the club as his other appearances were all as a substitute. The midfielder’s statistics improved by 2014/15. Enough to warrant a contract renewal with Inter Milan on the 9th of January 2015 but it hasn’t stopped the transfer speculation surrounding the player.
For a 21 year old, Kovacic has an impressive amount of International experience as he has featured for Croatia under 14s, 15s, 17s, 19s, 21s and now plays for the senior side. He made his full International debut in March 2013 for his which came against Serbia where he played alongside Luka Modric in central midfield.
Kovacic went on to feature for Croatia again against Wales, Scotland and Iceland. This led to Kovacic being included in Croatia’s 2014 World Cup squad last summer and he started in their opening 3-1 loss to hosts Brazil before being substituted after 60 minutes.
Style of Play
Kovacic is a versatile midfielder, playing as an attacking midfielder at Dinamo Zagreb, then as a left midfielder for the club before playing as a deep lying playmaker at Inter Milan and a classic central midfielder for Croatia. Kovacic’s trademark style of play in midfield is to retrieve the ball in his own half and create attacking plays. The player loves to win back possession, make key passes and go on attacking runs.
Last season, Kovacic scored 5 goals and created 3 assists in 26 Serie A appearances. The midfielder made an average of 1.2 shots, 1.7 long balls and 2.6 dribbles per game. Defensively, the midfielder likes to get stuck in as he made an average of 1.6 tackles, 0.6 interceptions and 0.3 clearances per game. Passing is a key part of Kovacic’s game as last season he made an average of 53.1 passes per game which included an average of 0.3 through balls and 1.8 key passes while his successful passing rate was 87.5%.
So, should Liverpool fans be excited? Well, why not? Granted his not a big name in Europe yet. Nor was Coutinho when arrived though. And besides, a midfield of Kovacic, Can, Henderson and Milner would add some more steel to a midfield that was dominated throughout last season. Rodgers, sign him up.